Children’s story: Genesis 37:1-28
First Lesson: Genesis 41:53-42:5
Sunday, August 2, 2015 I love this story about these two Hebrew slave women. This might be one of my very favorite stories in the entire Bible. So here’s it is.
God’s people the Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt for more than four hundred years. They hadn’t started out as slaves, as you may recall. They had started out as honored guests – the brothers of Joseph – who was the second in command in the entire country of Egypt. And the reason Joseph was so honored and famous in Egypt, as you may recall, was that he had saved the entire country of Egypt and a great deal of the rest of the world from starving to death in a terrible famine that lasted seven years. Joseph had foreseen a world-wide famine and he had stored up huge quantities of food for the Egyptians. In fact people came from all over the world to buy the food that Joseph had stored up in Egypt. Eventually he brought his father and his brothers and all of their families to live in Egypt. They settled in the most fertile and lush part of the entire country, and they enjoyed their fame as the family of Joseph.
But four hundred years had passed, and the current king of Egypt had forgotten all about Joseph and his great service to the country of Egypt, and so had everybody else – in four hundred years.
And one day the great king of Egypt, who was the richest and strongest and most powerful king in all the world in those days – one day the great King of Egypt looked out the window of his palace. And he noticed that there were a lot of Hebrews in his country. And that they were in the most fertile region of the country. And that they were prospering there and multiplying there in the richest and most fertile part of his country. And he thought to himself that if things kept on as they were going, that soon those Hebrew descendants of Joseph would outnumber actual Egyptians in his country. And if there should be a war, maybe the Hebrews would side with his enemies, which would not be a good thing.
So the richest and strongest and most powerful king of the whole world devised a plan. He decided to make those Hebrews slaves. He forced the women and children to work in the Egyptian homes and in the fields. He forced the men to work building the great store cities like Pithom and Ramses - fabulous structures in their day. They worked all day in the hot Egyptian sun, making bricks and building buildings. They were worked to death and beaten to death and starved to death. But still the number of Hebrews in his country grew and grew.
So the richest and strongest and most powerful king of the whole world devised another plan. He called the Hebrew midwives –Shiphrah and Puah - into his palace and he gave them an order. He ordered them that when they were assisting the Hebrew women to give birth, they should kill all the newborn baby boys. The baby girls they could let live, but the baby boys they were ordered to kill.
And the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah walked straight out of that palace and from their audience with the richest and strongest and most powerful king, and they continued doing as they had been doing all along. And they let all the baby boys live.
So a couple of years later the king of Egypt was looking out the window of his palace again, and he noticed that there were a lot of little Hebrew baby boys toddling around his country. And he called in two of the Hebrew midwives – Shiphrah and Puah. And he said to them, “Why is it that I see so many little Hebrew baby boys toddling around my country when I gave you explicit instructions to kill them all?”
And Shiphrah and Puah stood there in that magnificent Egyptian palace. They stood there in their raggedy slave robes and their bare feet. And they bowed low and they said to the richest and strongest and most powerful king of all the world – they said, “Your Royal Highness, Your Majesty, Your Eminence, Your Excellence. Oh King. The Hebrew women are not like all the Egyptian women. The Hebrew women give birth very quickly – before we can get there. And we don’t have a chance to kill the baby boys.”
And the richest and strongest and most powerful king in all the world believed their crazy story.
And God blessed those two brave Hebrew midwives, and rewarded them. And the population of the people of God grew. The Hebrews in Egypt kept on having more and more babies and becoming stronger and stronger.
Now I love that story for what it is – that two brave slave women dared to stand up to the richest and most powerful king in all the world, and I do love it that he was stupid enough to believe their lies.
But there’s much more to the story. What’s at stake here, is the future of God’s people. What’s at stake here is the continuation of the line of God’s people through which we are blessed. What’s at stake here are God’s promises. God had come to Noah (as we saw last week) and to Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Jacob and God had said, “I am your God. I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
Think about it: If the king had had his way, and if all the baby boys had been killed there would be no more People of God. There would be no stories of God’s love to come to us. There would be no Old Testament Bible. There would be no Jesus. Those two slave women in their raggedy slave robes and their bare feet dared to disobey the direct order of the king. And they kept the line open between us and God.
I am glad and grateful to know their names and I thank God for them and for their bravery.
And now this: Here’s how it is for us. We wake up in the morning, each of us, and while our heads are still on the pillow, we give the coming day to God. We ask God to be with us and bless us and those we come into contact with that day. And then the day begins to happen. We have conversations with people in person and on the telephone. We interact with our co-workers and with our supervisors. We make decisions at home and at work, and we buy things at Lowes and Meijer and wherever we buy them. We do the laundry and we mow the lawn. We spend time with our families and our friends, and we watch some TV maybe, and we attend church and some of us attend church meetings. And all day long we are alert to the ways we may be acting or speaking for God. Or saying or doing what would please God. Or behaving as followers of Jesus. And most of us have no way of knowing how one small word or one small action will bless someone else. Or how one decision made or one email or text message written will make a difference – a huge difference - in the life of someone else. And we have no way of knowing how far that ripple will spread.
But we live our lives, silently, faithfully, actively committed to God. We listen for the Spirit of God to direct us and to speak and act through us. And we leave it in God’s hands to bless.
And every once in a very great while, the door opens for us to do or say something truly brave and truly significant. And we walk through that open door as God leads us. And we may never know the consequences of what we have dared to do. And we leave that also in God’s hands to bless.